Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Primary Theme: Resilience
How does calamity change people’s experience of the past and how they project this past into the future? When, and how, do post-disaster worlds generate counterfactual stories and virtual realities in which what was rubs uneasily against what could have been and may yet be? While crises — from disasters to wars to medical emergencies — are often intensifications of existing processes, they are also experienced as ruptures: moments that delineate a before, an after, and a moment when “everything changed.” This panel is concerned with temporality and rupture in a double sense. Firstly, we are interested in how people adjust their anticipatory processes when their expectation of the futur anterieur — what they imagine would have happened — is suddenly disrupted. Secondly, we ask how different temporalities of rupture — instantaneous, spread out, even longue durée — make possible different projects of world-making in their aftermath. We contend that attending to temporality and rupture in these ways can illuminate not only how temporal experience shapes possibilities for remaking social, cultural, and material worlds in the wake of sudden change, but also the centrality of non-linear temporalities to “ordinary” life.
Drawing from extensive ethnographic research, the papers in this panel explore the futur anterieur in the context of calamity. Specifically, they discuss the imagination of the future in consecutive weather-related disasters in the United Kingdom, the relationship between loss and the experience of time in post-earthquake Turkey, the negotiation of alternative ecological futures in the aftermath of the nuclear fallout in Fukushima, Japan, new dreams of previously “futureless” rural areas as spaces to build the future of the nation in post-tsunami Japan, and the narrative navigation of counterfactual pasts and possible futures after HIV diagnosis in Indonesia. They apply a non-linear approach to study the aftermath of unanticipated disruption, by exploring concepts such as “rupture,” “optimism,” “half-life,” “subjunctivity,” and “compressed time.”
Together, these papers ask: What potentialities does the rupture open up and foreclose? How do people articulate or instantiate what could have been and may yet be through storytelling, art, and other practices? How do materializations and spatializations of disaster relate its temporalities? And how can anthropologists capture the multiple temporalities of their interlocutors’ experiences of sudden change? By doing so, they demonstrate and theorize the centrality of nonlinear temporalities to ordinary and extraordinary life.